The approach of cold temperatures and wintery weather can lead to an increase in certain claims. The reasons for winter claims can vary, but all ultimately relate to the unique challenges posed by wintertime.
It’s easy to forget about these seasonal risks when the ice thaws and the sun comes out, but a quick refresher on the dangers can help you avoid an unnecessary claim event. Here’s a wintertime risk management checklist to get you through the colder months.
Breaking Down Wintertime Risk Management
Your business faces a wide variety of risks that can lead to an almost endless variety of claims. But these varied risks can be broken down into a few key types that help you focus on what’s most important.
The most common wintertime claims typically involve one these areas of your operations:
With the right steps, you can protect each of these areas of your franchise.
Protecting Your People
It’s important to keep your business warm and welcoming during the winter months for both your employees and your customers. Certain accident and injury claims can increase during the winter, but the right steps can minimize your risk:
- Create a Winter Safety Plan – Winter’s unique risks are best managed by planning ahead. Review risks your employees and customers are likely to face due to cold, winter weather and shorter days, and plan responses to minimize the impact.
- Train Employees on Winter Safety – Safety at your business is increased when your employees know what to do for their own safety and the safety of customers. Using your winter safety plan as a guide, train employees on how to reduce accidents and injuries.
- Prevent Slip and Fall Hazards – Most accident and injury claims during winter relate to slip and fall hazards. Keep parking lots, sidewalks, stairs, ramps and other exterior walkways free of snow and ice. Use signage indoors to warn of wet floor hazards.
- Prepare for Winter Storms – Winter weather and power outages are a given in certain parts of the country, making advanced prep a must. Review contracts with your snow removal partner and provide employees with flashlights, shovels, deicer and other needed supplies.
- Ensure Safe Travel for Work – Winter car accidents and injuries are more likely when drivers are unprepared. Let employees traveling to and from work know about serious weather events and road closures that may affect the safety of their commute.
- Minimize Customer Injury Hazards – Customers may be at risk from other wintertime hazards, such as falling ice or tree branches, downed powerlines, missing handrails or loose floor mats. Try to minimize the risk of these hazards as much as possible.
Protecting Your Property
Wintertime can present unique risks to your business property, including your buildings, company vehicles, furnishings and inventory. The risk of damage occurring can be reduced with the following precautions:
- Take Care of Roof Maintenance – Excess snow and ice accumulation on the roof can lead to ice dams and pooling water that can overflow onto sidewalks and freeze, leak inside or collapse the roof. Be sure to patch any leaks and unclog gutters and drains.
- Manage Trees on the Property – Falling trees on your property can be a hazard to your buildings, vehicles and furnishings during wintertime ice, sleet and snowstorms. Be sure to trim trees, remove dead limbs and keep trees healthy to reduce the risk.
- Prevent Frozen Water Lines – Pipes freeze easily in cold temperatures, damaging plumbing and fixtures and interrupting business. Winterize your outdoor sprinklers, repair indoor leaks, and insulate water lines and drains to ensure you don’t have problems.
- Secure Outdoor Furnishings – Seasonal outdoor furnishings can be overlooked and forgotten in cold winter months, which can lead to weather damage and theft. Be sure to winterize furnishings, cover to protect from the elements and secure to prevent theft.
- Manage Seasonal Fire Risks – Fire risks increase for most businesses in the winter months, so it’s important to be aware of the risks. Make sure holiday decorations and lights are in good working order and won’t interfere with sprinklers or emergency exits.
- Minimize Potential Storm Damage – Storms can cause a wide variety of damage, from wind damage to water intrusion, flooding, falling trees, power surges, boiler breakdowns and more. Examine your top risks and take preventative action to minimize problems.
Protecting Your Vehicles
Businesses that own or operate vehicles for delivery, catering or other business purposes face added risks in winter, as well. The chances of an accident or property damage can be reduced with these precautions:
- Get Winter Tune-Ups – Preparing vehicles for winter driving conditions before it gets too cold can minimize wear and tear and help prevent unexpected repairs. Have a certified mechanic check belts and hoses, change the oil and fix other maintenance issues.
- Train Drivers on Safety – Drivers can forget how different and more dangerous driving in winter can be compared to the summer. Offer a training refresher to anyone who drives for the business about how to handle rain, snow, ice and sleet on the road.
- Check Weather Forecasts – Winter weather can change dramatically in an hour, leaving unprepared drivers at a disadvantage. Prepare for travel during winter by checking daily forecasts and advising drivers of anticipated freezing temperatures and precipitation.
Protecting Your Business
Your other business assets can also be put at risk during wintertime. It’s important to take these risks into consideration so that your business and all its assets are fully protected. The following areas are particularly important:
- Take Regular Inventories – Accurate inventories of product and supplies help ensure you’re ready when the weather gets bad and that coverage will be available if a loss occurs. Make sure your inventory records are up to date when a storm is expected.
- Protect Important Documents – Access to important business documentation is a must if there is an emergency or you need to file a claim. Make sure important documents stored onsite are kept securely in safes that are fireproof and waterproof.
- Secure Digital Assets – Your digital files can also be at greater risk of theft, damage or security compromise as cybercrime typically spikes in wintertime. Work with an IT professional to protect physical and remote access to your computers and POS systems.
- Maintain Insurance Protection – Businesses face many risks and proper insurance coverage helps protect you in the event of the unexpected. Talk to your insurance representative to make sure you have the coverage you need to protect all your assets.
Follow the tips in this wintertime risk management checklist to reduce the risk to your business this winter.